FatFreq Maestro SE Review

I just came back from a business trip in Europe and came home to a package from the Watercoolers Tour group with the FatFreq Maestro SE and Maestro Mini enclosed. While I did review the Mini a while back, this was my first chance to take a look at the Maestro Special Edition, which retails for approximately $2K USD.

As this is a loaner tour unit, I only had about a week of listening time on this IEM before I have to ship it out to the next participant. All my listening was made on the FiiO M15S digital audio player and the Hiby R3-II player, as well as my desktop system comprised of the Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE and Bliss KTE.

As this was a loaner, I did not have all the packaging contents, so I'll only touch upon the looks and fit of the IEM. 

The Maestro is a blue resin shell IEM that has a somewhat deep ear fit and is semi-large. The Maestro Mini is essentially a mini version of this IEM with the same visual look but in a smaller form. While the Maestro SE may look a little aggressive, it does fit my ears very well. Too well even, as it isolates noise very well because of how deep it inserts and it's larger body. 

The loaner came with the upgraded silver blue cable that is available for an additional $150. This specific cable is a 4-wire braid with silver/carbon metal hardware. The cable has removable headphone jacks that are L-shaped in this demo unit. The cable overall is very lightweight, supple, and no complaints from me, besides that the modular connector adds quite a lot of length to the end of the cable.

Sound Impressions

The Maestro SE, like the other FatFreq is a basshead IEM. It's not hiding that fact in anyway. The first time you put it on, turn on some bass track, and you'll experience subwoofer madness. It's intense, it is brash, and it is surprisingly not a hindrance to the midrange and the treble like many basshead headphones can easily be. 

I tested this IEM with Tinashe's latest record BB/ANG3L as it's a great mix of bass lines and drum hits, with club hip hop, R&B, and electronic elements. On the opening track, "Treason", the vibraphone comes in very well and present. The imaging is solid as the music builds and up engulfs me. Tinashe's voice also comes in very well and sounds on point. Towards the middle to the end of the track, the bass and sampled hums in the background enter with thunderous slam thanks to the Maestro's abundance of bass quantity. It's controlled and does not bleed on this track, although it's a much simpler song in general.

In the following track, "Talk to Me Nice", the club beat hits hard. It slams, and makes feel like I'm in a car with massive subs in the back. As it pounds, I am surprised that Tinashe's vocals are still ever present and clear. Sometimes with bass overdrive headphones, female vocals can sound very high pitched and nasaly to make up for the bass quantity, or they just go completely missing such as in ultra-V shaped sound signatures. The Maestro SE keeps things well balanced here, and the mids and treble are not missing.

As I listened to more and more bassy tracks, I was continually impressed with the overall sound. Yes, it does get occasionally muddy on busy tracks, and yes, it can be very overwhelming, but I knew what I was getting myself into here with a basshead sound signature, and for the most part, it does the trick without too much compromise.

The National's "Weird Goodbyes" with Bon Iver is another track which I really enjoyed listening with the Maestro SE. The IEM presented the drums and bass that drive the track with great control and precision. Both vocalists have sound forward and with great grittiness and boldness. Again, the Maestro SE does a solid job with instrument and vocal separation and imaging on this track, and with a soundstage that isn't super wide, but enough to not sound claustrophobic.

The treble range is something that can be overlooked in this IEM because of its focus on the bass range, but the EST drivers used on this IEM present a very subtle and gentle and smooth treble reproduction that I quite enjoy. There's absolutely no harshness here, and I feel like there's just the right amount to accentuate details and provide air. It's a great balance.

Final Thoughts

So how does this compare to the Mini? I have both in hand, and have already done a full review of the significantly cheaper Mini in the past. The Mini is obviously smaller in physical form, but it still features a similar tonal sound signature. I do find that its bass texture and resolution to be a bit off of the Maestro SE. You definitely get an upgraded resolution and smoothness throughout with the higher end Maestro, but for those on a tighter budget and looking for a good basshead IEM, the Mini may do the trick.

If you want more, quality than quantity, the Maestro SE is pretty fun and enjoyable IEM with good resolution and technical performance. I have yet to hear their flagship Grand Maestro but I am curious how that one will sound. There's also a new competitor entering the ring now with the Symphonium Titan and its similar frequency response to also evaluate (which I will soon!). 

All that said, this is a solid choice for a basshead IEM and one that I am finding hard to put down with tracks that demand big bass response.

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